The Beatles: “We Were at our ‘Best’…”
“We were at our best when we were playing in the dance halls of Liverpool and Hamburg. The world never saw that.” Pete Best
Randolph Peter “Pete” Best (born 24 November 1941) is a British musician, principally known as the original regular drummer in the Beatles.
He was born in the city of Madras, then part of British India. After Best’s mother, Mona Best (1924–1988), moved to Liverpool in 1945, she opened The Casbah Coffee Club in the cellar of the Bests’ large house in Liverpool.
The Quarrymen: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ken Brown, frequently played at The Casbah instead of the The Cavern Club, which had a jazz-only policy at that time. The Casbah Club cellar—with its original decoration—still exists
“Liverpool was an industrial town, a poor town. The people fought hard for what they wanted to achieve and there was a hunger there, and that hunger has remained with the musicians.” Pete Best
The Beatles invited Best to join on 12 August 1960, on the eve of the group’s first Hamburg season of club dates.
He was eventually replaced by Ringo Starr on 16 August 1962
“George Martin was used to drummers being very ‘in time’, because all the big-band session drummers he used had a great sense of time. Now, our Liverpool drummers had a sense of spirit, emotion, economy even, but not a deadly sense of time. This would bother producers making a record. George took us to one side and said, ‘I’m really unhappy with the drummer. Would you consider changing him?’ We said, ‘No, we can’t!’ It was one of those terrible things you go through as kids. Can we betray him? No. But our career was on the line. Maybe they were going to cancel our contract”. Paul McCartney
Martin clearly states that he never told the band to dismiss Pete Best. Paul McCartney states Martin said, “Would you consider changing him?”.
George Martin was surprised that Epstein had sacked Best, stating: “He seemed to be the most saleable commodity as far as looks went. It was a surprise when I learned that they had dropped Pete. The drums were important to me for a record, but they didn’t matter much otherwise. Fans don’t pay particular attention to the quality of the drumming”
Best was never fully told why he was dismissed, as the only reason Epstein stated was, “The lads don’t want you in the group any more”.
Epstein subsequently claimed in his autobiography that Lennon, McCartney and Harrison thought Best “Too conventional to be a Beatle, and though he was friendly with John, he was not liked by George and Paul”
“I was close to John simply because I liked him as a person. He liked me as a person. We spent a lot of times at one another’s houses back in Liverpool. We spent a lot of time together in Germany”. Pete Best
It has been claimed that Epstein became exasperated with Best’s refusal to adopt the mop-top-style Beatle haircut as part of their unified look keeping his quiffed hairstyle, although Best later stated that he was never asked to change his hairstyle.
Best’s popularity with fans was a source of friction, as many female fans considered Best to be the band’s best-looking member.Radio Merseyside presenter, Spencer Leigh, wrote a book chronicling Best’s firing, suggesting that the other members, McCartney in particular, were jealous. During the Teenagers’ Turn showcase in Manchester, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison walked on stage to applause, but when Best walked on, the girls screamed
Beatles’ critic Alan W. Pollack compared the Best, Starr, and Andy White versions of “Love Me Do”, and concluded that Best was “an incredibly unsteady and tasteless drummer” on his version
Soon after Best was dismissed, Epstein attempted to console him by offering to build another group around him, but Best refused. Feeling let down and depressed, he sat at home for two weeks—not wanting to face anybody or answer the inevitable questions about why he had been sacked.
Epstein secretly arranged with his booking agent partner, Joe Flannery, for Best to join Lee Curtis & the All Stars, which then broke off from Curtis to become Pete Best & the All Stars. They signed to Decca Records, releasing the single “I’m Gonna Knock On Your Door”, which was not successful
Best decided to leave show business, and by the time of Hunter Davies’ authorised Beatles’ biography in 1968, he was not willing to talk about his Beatles association. Years later he stated in his autobiography, “the Beatles themselves certainly never held out a helping hand and only contributed to the destruction with their readily printed gossip that I had never really been a Beatle, that I didn’t smile, that I was unsociable and definitely not a good mixer. There was not a single friendly word from any one of them”. During the height of Beatlemania he attempted to commit suicide, but was talked out of it by his mother, Mona, and his brother, Rory
“I walked out of the show business in 1968 because I thought that would be good for the family. It took me some time to decide but I wanted to spend more time with my wife and two daughters who were always beside me. I wanted to do everything I could for them”. Pete Best
In 1988, after twenty years of turning down all requests to play drums in public, Best finally relented, appearing at a Beatles convention in Liverpool.
“Many things have been said about what happened, but I don’t know either. Maybe someday. One thing I’m sure of is that all the things that have happened to me, good and bad, happy and sad, have made me what I am today”.Pete Best
“I’m Gonna Knock on Your Door” b/w “Why Did I Fall in Love with You” (Decca F 11929, Released: 1964)
“Don’t Play With Me (Little Girl)” b/w “If You Can’t Get Her” (Happening 405, Released: 1965)
“If You Can’t Get Her” b/w “The Way I Feel About You” (Happening HA1117, Released: 1965)
“Kansas City” b/w “Boys” (Cameo 391, Released: 1965)
“(I’ll Try) Anyway” b/w “I Wanna Be There” (Original Beatles Drummer 800, Released: 1965)
“I Can’t Do Without You Now” b/w “Keys to My Heart” (Mr. Maestro Records 711, Released: 1965)
Best of the Beatles (Savage BM 71, Released: 1965) Includes: “I Need Your Lovin”; “Just Wait and See”; “Casting My Spell”; “Keys to My Heart”; “Why Did You Leave Me Baby?”; “Like My Sister Kate”; “I Can’t Do Without You Now”; “I’m Blue”; “Some Other Guy”; “She’s Alright”; “Nobody But You”; “Last Night”